Labor's Grand Emotional Refugee. "Keeper of the Faith: A Biography of Jim Cairns", by Paul Strangio. [review]
Partly, Strangio's book is burdened by not being a book. It is a Ph.D. It has been edited to a degree but, frankly, should have been completely rewritten. "Keeper of the Faith" is not the dreariest Ph.D redux I've read, perhaps because I have always found its subject interesting. But it is, frankly, often as not, a lifeless and repetitive reading experience. The phrase 'agent of social change', or some minor variation on it, must be repeated a thousand times. The obvious, especially where it concerns Cairns's ambivalence about organised democracy, is often laboured to death. The book conveys little sense of what Cairns is like to be with or to observe, of his personal tastes, of his opinions beyond politics, or even if he has any. The book scarcely contains any anecdotes, the stuff of life in biography. Instead, there are endless slabs of quotes from press reports. One of the very few descriptive comments concerns Cairns's 'trademark parliamentary style', which was 'an impassive monotone, his face expressionless': it could describe Strangio's utterly wooden prose.